Adverse reactions to milk in infants

Acta Paediatr. 2008 Feb;97(2):196-200. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2007.00599.x.


Aim: To study the age when symptoms of adverse reactions to milk occur, in premature and term children, the debut of various symptoms, immunoglobulin E (IgE)- and non-IgE-mediated reactions and the frequency of tolerance at 1 year.

Methods: Six hundred and eight children, 193 premature and 416 term infants, were followed. Symptomatic children were invited to a clinical examination. The criteria for the diagnosis were: histories of suspected cow's milk allergy (CMA) and proven IgE-mediated reactions to cow's milk or positive elimination/challenge tests.

Results: Twenty-seven out of 555 (4.9%) were diagnosed with adverse reactions to cow's milk. All had symptoms before 6 months of age. The main symptoms were: pain behaviour (13), gastrointestinal symptoms (7), respiratory symptoms, (6) and atopic dermatitis (1). One child had proven IgE to cow's milk. Premature and term infants displayed the same symptoms and age of debut. Thirteen children were tolerant to cow's milk at 1 year.

Conclusion: Adverse reactions to milk start early in life, with pain behaviour, gastrointestinal, and respiratory symptoms being the most common, and rarely atopic dermatitis. Non-IgE-mediated reactions were the most frequent. Symptoms and age of debut were the same in premature and term infants. Half of the children tolerated cow's milk at age 1.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Skin Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Immunoglobulin E